Greenstone jewellery workshops in the Tabon Caves complex of the Philippines

Hsiao-chun Hung, Yoshiyuki Iizuka, Mary Jane Bolunia

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    In the 1960s, when Robert Fox excavated the Tabon Caves on Palawan Island of the southwest Philippines, many beautiful jade ornaments were discovered. For several decades, these jade objects were presumed to be imported from Mainland Southeast Asia or China. Through typological, technological and geochemical analyses, the authors re-examined 40 samples from Tabon excavated by Fox. Details are presented here for the greenstone jewellery and worked fragments from the Guri, Uyaw and Tabon Caves. The results confirmed at least three of the caves served as greenstone jewellery workshops for producing at least three types of greenstone (nephrite, serpentinite and mica) ornaments. These studies further suggested that several of the basic forms/styles of greenstone ornaments probably were developed from certain types of jade ornaments in the late Neolithic of Taiwan. It is important to note that the local artistic inputs in the Philippines and cultural influences from neighbouring regions (such as Vietnam) eventually shaped the great variety of Philippine greenstone jewellery. These new results support a re-consideration of the social meaning of the ancient greenstone workshops in the larger context of the South China Sea maritime trade networks more than 2000 years ago.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationThe Archaeology of Portable Art: Southeast Asian, Pacific, and Australian Perspectives
    Editors M Langley, M Litster, D Wright & S May
    Place of PublicationOxford and New York
    ISBN (Print)9781315299112
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


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